Kumar Sangakkara displayed his class with a breathtaking 84-ball 103 as Sri Lanka recovered from a middle-order batting collapse to score a thrilling two-wicket over India in the Asia Cup, at the Khan Shaheb Osman Ali Stadium, in Fatullah, Bangladesh, on Friday night.
Chasing 265, the islanders rode on the 36-year-old batsman's 84-ball 103 to clinch victory with four balls to spare.
The victory took Sri Lanka to the top of table in the five-nation continental tournament.
After Shikhar Dhawan (94) and Virat Kohli (48) played a huge part in India’s total of 264 for nine after being sent in to bat, the Lankans, cruising at 134 for one, were helped in their chase by the Indian fielders, who dropped three catches.
Ravindra Jadeja, who scalped two wickets in two balls en route to figures of 3 for 30 and Ravichandran Aswhin (2 for 42), brought the team the contest, but Sangakkara stood firm till the penultimate over, in the process striking 12 boundaries and a six.
Continuing his dream run in Bangladesh that includes a triple century, three centuries and two half-centuries across the Test and ODI formats, Sangakkara was in complete control even as he lacked support at the other end after the departure of Kusal Perera (64).
With his team under pressure, the experienced campaigner ensured that he took Sri Lanka close to the target as he completed his 18th ODI century with a boundary off 83 balls, only to be dismissed by Mohammed Shami off the next delivery.
By the time he was dismissed, the Lankans were close to the finish line, requiring seven runs from nine balls.
With the scores level in the penultimate over, it was as good as over for India after they dropped their fourth catch, this time Dhawan goofing up at mid-off.
Earlier, Ajantha Mendis returned to haunt India and restrict them to a modest total.
The spinner castled Kohli and Dhawan with his 'carrom ball' delivery en route to figures of 4 for 60, while off-spinner Sachithra Senanayake scalped 3 for 41 as the much talked-about India's new-look middle-order struggled in the absence of Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
India slipped badly after being comfortably placed at 175 for two in the 36th over.
Ajinkya Rahane (22), Ambati Rayudu (18) and Dinesh Karthik (4) looked good but could not covert their starts, while Stuart Binny did not trouble the scorers, out for a zero.
Having come into the limelight with a career-best 6 for 13 against India in Karachi in 2008, Mendis got a reality check after the currently out-of-favour Vireder Sehwag unleashed his fury on him the next year.
But that was then. On Friday, included in place of medium pacer Suranga Kamal, he did not let the Lankans down.
The pitch behaved differently, and the ball stayed low right from the first over. The conditions were perfect to test the openers, who were in the middle of a prolonged lean patch.
Sharma, particularly, struggled against the odd ball as Sri Lanka, who were playing with three specialist spinners, brought on offie Senanayake in the sixth over.
Lanka seemed in perfect control, conceding only 37 runs in the first power play which also yielded Sharma's wicket.
Sharma'a anxious stay came to an end after he was out to a dubious decision. Umpire Nigel Llong ruled the batsman out despite him being long way down the track.
The breakthrough incidentally turned around India's fortunes with last match centurion Kohli starting off with a boundary.
At the other end, Dhawan looked to have got his fluency back and Kohli's reassuring presence further calmed the left-hander's nerves.
Sri Lanka's pace attack lacked bite after skipper Angelo Mathews left the field midway into his third over with a niggle. The Lankans resorted to an all-spin attack, with Mendis coming in to bowl in the 16th over.
With Kohli in exquisite form and Dhawan back among runs, the duo looked in control of the proceedings.
Dhawan completed his half-century off 68 balls, the left-hander's first 50-plus score in nine matches. Kohli punished Chaturanaga de Silva before Dhawan joined the party with a boundary and a six against Perera, as India raced to 128-1 in 26 overs.
Then, a smart decision to bring in Mendis from the pavilion end paid off for the Lankans.
The bowler, who had a listless 4-0-22-0 in the first spell, sent down a ‘carrom ball’ delivery which castled the in-form Kohli, who fell two short of a half-century.
The prized scalp of Kohli broke India's back and the new-look middle order, without Dhoni, could never recover.
India took the batting powerplay early, in the 33rd over, but the inexperienced middle order in Rahane, Rayudu, Karthik and Binny failed to cash in.
Only 28 runs and Rahane's wicket in the batting powerplay was the beginning of India's downfall.
Mendis got two wickets in one over, including that of Dhawan with another ‘carrom ball’, to deny the left-hander a century.
Image: Kumara Sangakkara on the way to his hundred against India on Friday
Photograph: Andrew Biraj/Reuters